I WAS in the living room on Monday night, brushing cat hairs off the sofa for the umpteenth time that day and remembering, with a sudden twinge of pain, the £130 vets' bill I had paid a couple of days earlier, when the thought struck me:
I've got two cats as it is. I know, why don't I get another 38?
The thought was not exactly random, but was prompted by one of those hoarder programmes so beloved of television commissioning editors. This particular one, on Channel 5, was called The Woman with 40 Cats ... and Other Pet Hoarders. With a title like that, it had to be watched.
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The woman with 40 cats was called Marlene. A retired secretary, she started off nine years ago with her late mother's 14 pedigree Persians, and her collection (as it were) has grown ever since, at the rate of roughly 2.8 per year.
She spends £200 a week on cat food, and feeding time starts at 6am.
Marlene does seem entirely at home with her feline army and, it turns out, she takes such assiduous care of them that they have won many cat shows.
There was, however, a poignant little line early on when she said: "The cats never upset me. I like people but sometimes they can be very aggravating. I have closed down to the only pleasure being the animals I am surrounded by."
The money left by her mother so the cats can be fed is running out and Marlene knows it is not viable to keep all 40. With a twinge of sympathy, I genuinely wished her good luck.
I could not be without my cats and would not mind getting another one sometime. But I looked around the house after the programme and wondered what it would be like to live with 40 of the little creatures. It was a minor but convincing vision of Hell.
Having to sleep on the sofa because every inch of your double bed and bedroom floor has a feline occupant?
Having to cope with the bolder neighbourhood dogs standing eager sentry outside the house all day and all night, driven to distraction by the thought that so many of their traditional enemy are inside?
Having so many cat bowls to clean that there is no space for your own stuff in the dishwasher?
All that neutering? All those cat hairs? All those dead rodents secreted behind bookcases?
All that furniture scratched beyond repair? All those vets' bills?
Particularly (I blanch at the thought) 40 litter trays to empty first thing in the morning, every morning?
Oh. My. God.